You may recall back in Tennis Quick Tips Episode 43, I talked about my search for a new tennis racquet. Well, after researching racquets and demo-ing quite a few, I finally bought a new racquet. And in this episode, I'm going to tell you my best tips for demo-ing tennis racquets so you'll know exactly how to pick the racquet that's just right for you. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: tennisfixation.com/itunes.
My Search For A New Racquet
Back in Episode 43 of Tennis Quick Tips, I talked about my search for a new tennis racquet that was brought about because I had cracked my old racquet by “tapping” it on the court a little too forcefully after missing a shot during a match. That happens to everyone, right? Anyway, in Episode 43, I talked about the three main types of tennis racquets that are available today and the five different characteristics or qualities you need to consider with each of those types when choosing a racquet for yourself. If you want to understand racquet terminology a little better, give that episode a listen. I'll have a link in the show notes so you can go back and do that and you can also download a helpful tennis racquet infographic.
Okay, so I went through the process of comparing different racquet models and settled on three different racquets that I thought would meet my needs. I then went to my local tennis shop to actually look at racquets, hold them in my hands, and talk to a pro. In my case, I happen to be lucky enough to live about 12 minutes away from Tennis Express which is an incredible on-line retailer but also has a huge and fabulous store here in Houston. I talked to one of their resident racquet pros and got his opinion on what might be the right racquet for my game. We talked about how often I play, my style of play, how I hit the ball, what my current (broken) racquet was like, and why I thought I needed to move onto a pretty different type of racquet. He then recommended three racquets from three different manufacturers for me to try out.
So one of these was the one I actually had pretty much already picked out for myself, but I went ahead and checked out all three of them to do a real, true demo. There was a small charge for checking the racquets out but that charge would be credited back to me if I purchased a racquet from Tennis Express which I obviously was going to do.
My Racquet Demo Process
Then it was onto the demo process. First, let me give you a little warning about demo racquets. Sure, they're nice, new racquets. But they won't necessarily be in your grip size or strung to your preferred tension. My demo racquets were all a 4 3/8 grip size and I play with a 4 1/4. Also, these were all supposedly strung to the midpoint of their tension range which is just a little looser than where I have been stringing my racquet. And because they are demos, they may have been used by a lot of people and not restrung for awhile so there's really no telling what tension they're at – most likely they're looser than where they started and perhaps much looser than what you would play with.
Keeping these things in mind, here's how I demo-ed the racquets I checked out:
First, I called the pro that I take lessons with and told him I wanted to demo some racquets with him and I wanted him to help me pick out a racquet. He already knew I was looking for something new since he was the one who figured out I had cracked my racquet (yes, I cracked my racquet and it took someone else to find that out for me).
Next, we had a lesson and I brought out my old racquet (the un-cracked one) and the three demo racquets. The point of this lesson was not so much to work on my strokes but to really try these different racquets out and see how they felt.
I hit with my old racquet to start with just to really get it in my brain how that felt. We began with baseline shots. I hit with my old racquet for about 5 minutes and then I then switched to a huge new Babolat. Yuck. I did not like that feeling. I know that you have to give these new racquets a chance when you're demo-ing them but I was sure I would have to make too many adjustments to my technique to get this racquet under control. And this racquet was WAY different than my old racquet, probably more different than I needed. So I nixed that one right away.
I then switched to a Prince, which was just a few steps away in size, weight, etc. from my old racquet which was also a Prince. This was the racquet I had already picked out for myself so maybe I was kind of partial to it. Anyway, I felt extremely comfortable with this racquet and I could tell that several of my mis-hits were magically clearing the net. These were shots that I knew, right when I hit them, would not have gone over with my old Prince.
I then hit some volleys with the Prince. Again, it felt great. My volleys were much more solid than what I had come to expect with my old racquet. I volleyed with the new Prince for a few minutes and then switched back to my old racquet. Huge difference. I really had to put more on the volleys to get them to be as forceful as they'd been with the new Prince. I also had to be more careful when I went for angles.
Throughout this whole process, I asked a lot of questions and my pro commented on how he thought I was hitting with each racquet. He claimed I was hitting much better with the new Prince than with any of the demos or with my old racquet. I also had a Volkl to demo and I gave that one about a two minute demo. Frankly, I was so happy with the new Prince that I didn't feel more was necessary. And I don't know anyone who plays with a Volkl. That's not very objective of me but that's the sort of thing that influences me – I don't want to be the only person I know playing with a Volkl.
So, I guess it's no big revelation to say I loved playing with the Prince demo. I used it to play in a match the next day and, after hitting some crazy shots the first few games that went way deeper than what I was used to, I got the racquet under control and had a great match.
As far as the next step, I believe what a serious and reasonable player in search of the right racquet would do is go back to the pro shop, trade in the new Babolat and the Volkl and pick up two more racquets comparable to the Prince in size, weight, etc., and try those out for a week. Myself? I was tired of this whole process and just bought the Prince.
How Can You Demo A Racquet?
So, what if you want to demo some racquets but don't have a pro to rely upon? If you belong to a club or at least know someone who's taking lessons, see if their pro would be willing to do a lesson for you specifically for the purpose of trying out demo racquets. If you're willing to pay for their expert advice, I think it's worth it. You might also get a friend to go out and hit with you, trying out ground strokes, volleys, serves and returns with each of your demo racquets. If you can't come up with a friend who was the time for that, go to drills or a clinic and try out your demos. Probably the least desirable and hardest thing to do would be to just demo the racquets by playing matches. Since you don't want to constantly switch racquets during a match and that is what you need to do when demo-ing, a real match situation will not be a good demo situation.
Acquiring Demo Racquets
Now, how can you acquire some demo racquets if you don't happen to live right down the road from a big, fancy tennis retailer? Well, many on-line tennis retailers have really nice demo programs where they will ship several racquets to you for you to try out for a very reasonable price. Tennis Express, for example, has an on-line demo program that provides you with up to four racquets to try out for a week for only a $17.99 FedEx charge. Tennis Warehouse has a similar program that charges $10 to $20 for shipping depending on distance shipped. I'll put links to both of these demo programs in the show notes for this episode which you can find at TennisFixation.com/quicktips56. I want to be sure and disclose to you that I'm an affiliate for Tennis Express so my Tennis Express link is an affiliate link. I don't make any money if you click on that link and purchase something and you don't pay anything other than their usual prices but Tennis Express is nice enough to give me a small discount for things I myself purchase from them. I happen to love Tennis Express and am very happy to recommend them and their demo program to you if you're interested in it.
To conclude, I ended up buying a new Prince racquet that I've been playing with for about a month and I'm very happy with it. And I'm very, VERY careful with it on court. I really, really don't want to crack this new racquet on court anytime soon.
So let me know if you've gone through a racquet selection and demo process and how you picked your racquet out. I'd love to hear how your experience went, especially if you went through an on-line demo program.
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE:
- All About Tennis Racquets – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast Episode 43
- Tennis Express Demo Program
- Tennis Warehouse Demo Program
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© Kim Selzman 2014 All Rights Reserved